With 12 newcomers, the mound will be the area that shapes the season
The mound will be a testing ground early in the season. Of the 17 pitchers on the roster, only five pitched for the Rainbow Warriors last season.
“Everything starts on the mound,” said coach Mike Trapasso, who conceded that it might take the first 20 games to establish specific pitching roles. “Obviously, that’s the question mark, because (70) percent of it is untested.”
Brendan Hornung, the lone returning starting pitcher, is set to pitch the opener against North Carolina State. Hornung has a four-pitch menu, with a biting splitter thrown with the same motion used for his 90-mph fastball, change-up and curveball. Hornung struggled with his control through the first four weeks of spring training when — boing! — a mechanical tune-up during last Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage led to his best two innings.
“I was finally consistent and throwing strikes,” said Hornung, who upped his pitch count to 97.
Now Hornung is working on his take-a-deep-breath focus. “He’s one of those guys you actually have to get to back off,” Trapasso said. “With him, he struggles when he’s over-throwing.”
Hornung said: “I get too competitive when I try to throw the best pitch every pitch.” Dominic DeMiero, a three-pitch lefty, has solidified the No. 2 spot. Three weeks ago, DeMiero underwent a medical procedure in Minnesota. He is fully healthy and throwing his slider with accuracy and confidence. Two swing pitchers — Jackson Rees and Matt Richardson — are considerations for the third spot in the rotation or two-inning relief. Rees, who is 6 feet 5, has a unique over-the-top motion that adds unpredictability to his cutter. “Sometimes it runs into (the right-handed batter), sometimes it’ll cut like a slider,” Rees said. “Sometimes it doesn’t spin. It’s almost like it has a mind of its own.”
Neil Uskali is back in top form after losing 11 pounds because of a stomach ailment a couple of weeks ago. He is a candidate for a starting role. Dylan Thomas, who redshirted last year, has a 91 mph fastball that is the foundation of a power slider. “To be a back-end-of-a-bullpen pitcher, you need an out pitch, and his power slider is an out pitch,” Trapasso said.
Colin Ashworth has good control and maturity. He attended two junior colleges before transferring to UH in August. Patrick Martin, who had more walks (16) than strikeouts (13) last year, appears to have resolved his aim issues. Isaac Friesen is working on a knuckleball with mixed effectiveness.